CBA junior Brendan Durney has emerged as a star player for the Woodbridge Warriors, a sled hockey traveling team. Durney lives with cerebral palsy and uses crutches to walk, but that has not stopped him from becoming an accomplished athlete.
Sled hockey, known as "sledge hockey" outside the US, is one of the most popular Paralympic sports. It follows the same rules as regular ice hockey with five players plus a goalie, but is played on specialty sleds with two sticks. Players use their upper body strength to propel their sleds across the ice.
Durney, who has always had an active love of sports, found his way into sled hockey via his Delaware-based doctor. Heading into his freshman year at CBA, Durney decided to give the sport a try and he has developed into a top player for his team.
His Woodbridge team plays other sled hockey programs in the Delaware Valley Sled Hockey League, which includes teams from Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
"During the first practice I ever went to, one of the team's former players — now an Olympian — was there. Everything he was doing on the ice looked really cool. Playing sled hockey is a lot better than any sport that I've tried," Durney said.
Durney has dominated on the ice this season, notching several "hat-trick" nights of three goals for the Warriors. He is focused on the same objjectives as his league: promoting teamwork, healthy competition and the enjoyment of the sport he loves.
"Being on this team, it's just so personal. It's really hard to describe," Durney said. "I'm actually playing a sport and I'm a leader of the team. When I make a mistake, the coach calls me out, instead of in past sports where I've just been on the bench. I love the responsibility of the team needing me."
As a budding star in the sled hockey world, Durney has been able to share his experience with members of the CBA hockey team, who have been very receptive and supportive of Durney's talents.
"It's cool because I can be at lunch with guys on the team and I can just talk about the sport with them," Durney said. "Derek Contessa, who's a star on the CBA team, has always been supportive and he's always been interested in what I'm doing. Hopefully one day, they can see my version of the sport in action."
Durney believes that the environment of inclusiveness at CBA is a big reason why he is so successful in all aspects of his life with cerebral palsy.
"People at CBA, whether they are my friends or not, are always behind me and supporting me," he said. "I was definitely nervous coming in, but everyone has been really great. I have a lot of good friends that I've made here. It's without a doubt a unique environment to go to school in."
While Durney still has another year left of high school, he believes that his future in sled hockey will extend beyond his CBA graduation.
"Well, the ultimate goal would be the Olympics, obviously," Durney said with a smile. "That would be really crazy and awesome. There are club teams affiliated with a bunch of colleges around the country, such as the University of New Hampshire. I hope that when I get to college, I can join one of those teams."
And looking even further down the road, Durney can envision becoming a role model for kids with cerebral palsy through the sport of sled hockey.
"I could see myself starting a camp for sled hockey players," Durney said. " That would be really, really cool. I hope I can promote the sport and get kids into it, even if they aren't sports fans like I was. I think kids would be surprised at how much they'd enjoy it."
- INSIDE ATHLETICS